Steadfast in faith and active in service

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 9th September 2018
Trinity 15: James 2.1-10,14-17 & Mark 7.24-37

steadfastEvery month, the Marlborough Churches Together ministers meet, both to support one another, as well as to discuss what we may do together. One of the things we have been doing together for a long time is the walk of witness on Good Friday. And ever since I have been here, every time we meet, this is a point of discussion. Some of us feel that Good Friday is a solemn day, so the procession through the High Street should reflect this. Others feel that a solemn procession is a terribly poor witness to the Christian faith, and we should be more upbeat and joyful to show the good news of the Easter message.

I leave to you to think in which group I may fall, but I do think that too often Christianity is seen as something ‘heavy’, something that weighs you down or restricts you. Every time a rich person is mentioned, it seems, it is in a negative way, as here again in James’ letter. And do we really need to see ourselves as beggars, saying that we are not even worthy to eat the crumbs from under a table, to be sincere and true Christians?

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Living with integrity

Sermon St John the Baptist, Mildenhall, 2nd September 2018
Trinity 14: Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-9 & Mark 7.1-8,14,15,21-23

Listen and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. (Mark 6.14-15)

The week before last, I spent on retreat in Alnmouth in Northumberland, and walking along the North Sea shore, I  found myself thinking quite a lot about these words: it is not what is outside that defines us, but what comes from the inside. It is not our situation that determines who we are, but how we respond to it.

justiceIn this passage from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus specifically speaks about laws and customs around food. The Jewish had and still has rather strict rules about what can and cannot be eaten under certain circumstances, and how food is to be prepared and eaten. In the verses that are omitted from the reading this morning, Mark makes the comment that Jesus has now declared all foods clean.

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Food for the Journey

A Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
1 Kings 19.4-8, Ephesians 4.25 – 5.2 & John 6.35,41-51

Mount Horeb

When I was working as a physicist, part of my job consisted of facilitating experiments for visiting scientists. Individuals or small groups of researchers would come to our lab for a week, or sometimes two, to use our facilities for particular experiments they would not be able to do at home. Generally, it was a very exciting time, meeting people from all over the world, usually experts in their fields, and I would be infected by their enthusiasm for their research and experiments.

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Hungry for more?

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 8am 5th August 2018
10th Sunday after Trinity: Exodus 16.2-4, 9-15 & John 6.24-35

breadToday’s Gospel reading follows last week’s reading of the feeding of the five thousand. As then, also now, we are invited to reflect on who Jesus is using the familiar image of bread. Last week’s message in many ways was a very comforting one, both for the early readers of the Gospel as well as for us. With God there is always enough and even more. God gathers up what is left over and it is used. Both messages that give us reassurance about God’s loving nature and his care for us. Continue reading “Hungry for more?”

Celebrating our brokenness: St Mary Magdalene

A sermon for the Feast of St Mary Magdalene
2 Corinthians 5.14-17 & John 20.1,2,11-18

mary magdaleneThe reading from St John’s Gospel in which Mary Magdalene meets Jesus after the Resurrection (John 20.1-18) is one of my favourite, if not my favourite Bible reading. Mary Magdalene was known as someone with ‘problems’. According to the Gospels of Luke and Mark, Jesus cleansed Mary of seven demons. And in later tradition in the churches of the West, Mary Magdalene has also been identified as the Mary who anoints Jesus, the woman who used to be a prostitute. Although this tradition cannot be deduced directly from the Scriptures, it has been persistent in history.

Whether or not this was true, I think it is fair to say that Mary was someone on the fringes. Not least because she was a woman. I won’t by any means preach a feminist sermon, but I think it is significant that it is not Jesus’ disciples who are the first witnesses of the Resurrection, but Mary, a woman, a minority if you like, someone who was in some sense an outsider. Continue reading “Celebrating our brokenness: St Mary Magdalene”

A needy bunch and God’s compassionate reply

A sermon for the Eight Sunday after Trinity
Jeremiah 23.1-6 & Mark 6.30-34, 53-56

crowdsThe passages from Mark’s Gospel chosen by the compilers of the Lectionary this Sunday, frame the account of the feeding of the five thousand. Hence, we notice that this section has something to say about our human need, and Jesus’ response. So that is what I would like to explore a little further.

The needs of the people we encounter in this passage are two-fold. On the one hand there is the need of the disciples, who are tired and looking for rest after all that they have been doing and teaching. And then there is the endless need of the people in the crowd. No matter where Jesus and his disciples go, the crowd keeps following them, demanding more healing and more miracles. Continue reading “A needy bunch and God’s compassionate reply”

An opportunity missed: The tragedy of Herod’s decisions

A sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Amos 7.7-15 & Mark 6.14-29 

herodLike last week, also this week’s readings, one from the prophets and one from Mark’s Gospel, lead us to think about prophethood, or about our ability to hear and speak truthfully. This morning, in Mark’s Gospel we hear the account of the beheading of John the Baptist, which I suspect is a story known to many of us. The story occurs in all three synoptic Gospels, in Mark, Luke and Matthew.

In all three cases, the story about John’s beheading is not placed chronologically, but is told as an explanation why Herod is so afraid of Jesus. Herod fears that John the Baptist is resurrected in the form of Jesus. This is not a resurrection as a healing miracle, but taps in to the belief that good or evil spirits could come back as another person, some sort of reincarnation, so to speak. The placement of this story has scholars led to believe that it is a court legend, a story about good and evil, about power and powerlessness. It also raises the question about complicity and taking responsibility for our actions. Continue reading “An opportunity missed: The tragedy of Herod’s decisions”